The Omicron variant is a variant of SARS-CoV-2. It was first reported by World Health Organization in November 2020. They said that this originated from South Africa and has an unusually large number of mutations. In fact, this variant spreads much faster than COVID-19.
The entire world is concerned about its level of transmissibility, immune system evasion, and resistance to vaccines and therapeutics. Scientists in South Africa and Botswana rapidly identified and shared their genomic surveillance about the variant.
Many scientists say that there’s a link in HIV infection that explains the oddly large number of mutations. And since South Africa has HIV cases of 20% of its population, it is a state where people with weakened immune systems evolved.
Also, due to the lack of access to clinics and disrupted health care services, lots of people diagnosed with HIV in the region are not on HIV therapy. This explains why prevention of HIV can reduce the risk of uncontrolled transmission of Omicron.
And because it’s a concern of many, let this quick summary of what we know informs you.
- Omicron is considered to be more contagious. Omicron is 70 times faster to reach bronchi or lung airways compared to the Delta variant. But somehow, it’s less able to enter deep lung tissues. This is why many scientists believed that the variant doesn’t require hospitalization unlike previously identified variants of concern.
But, because of its extremely high rate of transmission, it’s necessary to double the vaccination of every individual to fully support the body’s immune system.
- More infective to people who are previously infected and unvaccinated. This is one of the top concerns of World Health Organization. That’s why they warned the health services of many countries that might be overwhelmed of the variant. This is in particular to nations with low vaccination rates.
Professor Paul Morgan, an immunologist at Cardiff University, strongly recommends vaccination so people won’t completely lose their immunity to Omicron. He also said that booster shots are better so the immune response of our bodies will be much more effective.
- Vaccine manufacturers are modifying their vaccines to address Omicron. Many studies say that current vaccines may continue to work on Omicron especially with booster shots. And although there is no precise timeline of when a vaccine will develop specifically for the variant, being vaccinated with doses that utilize mRNA technology is still the best option.
Keep in mind that being vaccinated not only protects you but also the people around you. Vaccines prevent the circulation and mutation of the virus regardless of any variant.
Our best defenses against this variant right now remain the same. This means that it is our responsibility to get vaccinated or booster shots, wear masks, social distancing in indoor public spaces, avoid crowds, and wash hands.
It is also our due diligence to spread trusted information about vaccines or how people can reach out to public organizations that frontlines the pandemic. Let’s all equipped ourselves with tangible competence to make a difference and put a stop to this worldwide trouble.